Trends in 2022: Addressing Covid’s impact on youth and lithium bottlenecks

03 January 2022 3 min. read
More news on

Addressing the impact from Covid on youth health and issues around the growing demand for lithium are two of the hot topics for the year ahead according to Kearney’s annual predictions.

Global management consulting firm Kearney has made its annual predictions for the year ahead, and several of them could have a sizeable impact on businesses in Australia. There is a notable shift in the tenor of the predictions from just two years ago – which zoomed in on geopolitical discord and environmental crises – with the focus now more squarely on base tech resources and governmental action in the wake of the global pandemic.

Having shaved its list by a half last year, Kearney’s predictions (an annual exercise conducted by the consultancy’s think-tank the Global Business Policy Council) for the trends and events that will most shape the operating environment in 2022 boil down to five main points: ongoing ESG pressure on governments and companies; the boom in virtual healthcare, a tipping point in demand for lithium, and the scramble for semiconductors.

Trends in 2022: Addressing Covid’s impact on youth and lithium bottlenecks

The pandemic’s scars

The fifth of the predictions is that “governments worldwide will mount campaigns in 2022 to address the behavioural and economic scars left by the pandemic on youth”, although the Kearney experts ask aloud whether it may be a matter of ‘too little, too late’. However, together with mounting pressure to act on climate change, the subject could come into sharp focus in Australia with the nation rolling toward its next federal election.

While the full extent of the pandemic’s long-term impact on the world’s youth isn’t yet known (let alone the extent of the pandemic itself), Kearney notes that the effects of almost two years of reduced socialisation and mental health challenges are beginning to bubble to the surface. The impact goes beyond the psychological though, with withdrawals from education and disruptions to child health services other major issues.

Here, Kearney cites the ILO, which contends that the productive potential of an entire generation could be reduced due to the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on young people in exacerbating existing inequalities. The consultancy doesn’t think these wounds can be tended without an increase in public and private-sector intervention, and even then it remains sceptical.

The question for Australia, will the nation’s impacted youth become an unlikely target demographic for the upcoming election?

Lithium the ‘new oil’

On a completely different note, Kearney also predicts that the demand for lithium will reach an inflection point in the coming year, with Australia currently positioned as the world’s largest producer and exporter of what electric vehicle manufacturers have touted as the ‘new oil’.

Demand for lithium

According to Kearney’s statistics, US lithium miners in the first three months of this year raised seven times the amount of investment than over the 36 months prior.

But there’s a catch. The extraction process for lithium is damaging to the environment, undermining the case for electric vehicle uptake. It also takes two million litres of water to produce one tonne of lithium. Kearney expects that with the lithium market to reach a value of $1.8 billion next year, the push for greener lithium solutions will reach a tipping point. With a majority market share of production, Australia should also be well placed to lead that evolution.